IOWA CITY, Iowa - Athletics Director Gary Barta called his coaching staff at Iowa a family. On Wednesday, the man at the head of the table - football coach Kirk Ferentz - spoke up for a member of his kin.
"I don't know squat about basketball, but when I watch our guys play, we're really young right now," Ferentz said. "The energy our guys have, we're not that far off. And I don't go on those chat boards, message rooms, I don't do that stuff, but I just hope everybody realizes it's a process.
"I've gotten to know Todd (Lickliter). I just have such respect for Todd and his staff, watch what they do, the way they compete, the improvement they're making. I just go back to 2000, '99, we walked a pretty tough road those two years, and it was tough to find a lot of friends and what have you, but you just keep working. I think he's building a heck of a team and a heck of a program.
"I just hope everybody will -- I know reporters have to write what they have to write, but I just hope everybody stays positive and stays with it, because it's going to be worth the investment, I really believe that. And I'm looking forward to that day. "
In his third year, Lickliter and his men's basketball team is off to a 2-5 start after a 70-64 loss against Virginia Tech on Tuesday. The Hawkeyes have endured two losing seasons in a row and a third one looks quite possible.
Iowa won one game in in 1999, Ferentz's first season and three a year later. The Hawkeyes made a bowl game in Year 3 and played in the Orange Bowl the next season.
"We both enjoy a cup of coffee," Ferentz said. "(Lickliter) likes drinking coffee, and I do, Gary does, too, so it's a good common denominator. Yeah, we'll have a cup of coffee a little bit. It seems kind of funny, we're both on the campus. Our offices are a couple hundred yards apart from each other, and our schedules don't mesh enough, well enough, but we do get -- I think we just like talking because we do have some common ground that way.
"I love talking to any good coach, and I've got the utmost respect for Todd. I think he's a top-shelf coach and person. He's just a great fit for our school and our state."
"I think he should be close to full speed if not at full speed after finals, which is two and a half weeks off, and we're optimistic that he'll be able to play in the Bowl game," Ferentz said of Richardson.
Quarterback Rick Stanzi, who missed the last two games with a high ankle sprain, looks ready to get back into action.
"He's moving around really well," Ferentz said. "He was bouncing around a week ago Saturday. He probably could have thrown the ball, but he'd be at risk back there. But things are really going well with his rehab."
Ferentz said they'll still proceed with caution for a while with the players returning from injury and veterans trying to heal up from bumps and bruises.
"We're not going to do an awful lot with the guys that have played all season long this weekend, but (Stanzi will) be out there throwing the football around," Ferentz said. "I fully anticipate him to be full speed probably next week. He could probably play this week. It would be a little shaky or what have you."
Running back Adam Robinson also looks good to go after fighting a sprained ankle he suffered at Michigan State.
"We expect Adam Robinson to practice this weekend," Ferentz said.
Moving Out: Ferentz announced on Wednesday that a pair of true freshmen, Tyler Harrell and Matt Murphy, will be leaving the program. The coach said they're still enrolled at Iowa but were expected to transfer to other schools to continue their football careers.
Harrell, a 6-foot-3, 230-pound defensive lineman from Ohio, was rated by Scout.com as a two-star prospect on a five-star scale. The 6-4, 238-pound Murphy came from Clinton, Iowa, where he earned two stars as an offensive lineman.
Giving Back: Ferentz singled out Director of Player Development Chigozie Ejiasi for his work and the players for following his lead.
"I think Chick has really helped us a great deal," Ferentz said. "He's done a good job interfacing with our players, particularly our younger guys, and he's also helped us in a lot of areas.
"We've had our first-year players, I think we've had seven or eight lectures now during the course of the season, outside people coming in to visit with them about different topics."
Ejiasi has organized a successful community service program.
"I was at a banquet in the summer, heard another head coach make reference to the community service hours that their players had put in, so I asked Chick to put a pencil to that," Ferentz said. "I think we've had 587 players involved now since the summer of '08, and they've totaled over 1,700 hours of community service.
"We're not doing it for the statistics, but I just want to throw that out there because I think it is significant, and most importantly it's really beneficial for our players. I think they really learn a little bit about giving back and doing some things that are very valuable."
Recruiting Trail: Ferentz was asked if coaches being let go at Notre Dame and other schools might benefit the Hawkeyes' recruiting efforts.
"Perhaps if we were contacted by someone," the coach said. "Unfortunately, this is the season where people make decisions and changes get made. That's the reality of the landscape we work. So if somebody contacts us, typically then that may be -- we'll certainly entertain -- we've kind of run out of room on our bus right now, but if we get some intriguing offers or interest level, but we really haven't had much of that."